Buying or selling a business?For this you need a headhunter

When Ben Doltis sold his two executive search firms to ManpowerGroup in 2013, he realized he could apply the principles of successful headhunting to an entirely different business – an M&A consultancy.

Generally, companies looking to hire new employees should only approach those who are looking for work. However, successful headhunters know that the best candidates are often the ones who don’t even think about leaving their current position and make it their job to find them and convince them to leave.

Doltis’ newest business, PCB Partners, does exactly the same thing looking for successful companies whose owners haven’t even considered exiting. “Some people hang a big ‘for sale’ sign on their business, which is fine, but usually results in a lot of companies bidding and often selling at stupid multiples,” he said. “PCB Partners doesn’t touch These businesses. We talk to people who haven’t considered selling. If it’s the right thing for them and our clients, we influence and negotiate a sale.”

Founded in 2018, PCB Partners provides buy-side and sell-side services, focusing on digital transformation, professional services, management consulting and marketing services. The business team is comprised of entrepreneurs, seasoned corporate finance executives and private equity veterans. Combining these skills with the mindset of a headhunter is a unique balance.

“Great headhunters match great individuals with great companies — and I realize that M&A firms can do the same with businesses, as long as you have in-house corporate finance and private equity expertise.

One of the unsuccessful bidders for its headhunting business was Doltis co-founder Tim Farazmand, who was then managing director of Lloyds Development Capital (LDC). “We got along really well,” he said. “While I didn’t sell to Tim, I knew he was the perfect partner for my next venture.”

PCB Partners is a global business with operations in the UK, US and Europe, with operations in Israel, Australia and India, and provides clients with digital transformation, management consulting and professional services. “Ultimately, what customers buy from PCB is access to our unique network of entrepreneurial off-market companies and strategic buyers,” Doltis said.

In starting his new business, he faced several challenges. Compliance, governance and FCA mandates play a major role in setting up a corporate finance firm, a complex process that has taken longer than he expected. “We are a fully reserved M&A advisory firm, and fee adjustments were a challenge for clients at first,” he said. “But once we got the chance, we took the credit very quickly with a successful deal.”

PCB Partners now has 20 employees and advisors, including seasoned M&A and private equity professionals, as well as entrepreneurs building and exiting their own businesses. In a relatively short period of time, the company has secured companies for some of the largest technology and services companies in the world. Last year, they acquired IT services company Atos Italia for British private equity firm Apax Partners, which employs 1,600 skilled staff across five locations in Italy.

The company’s most significant deal to date is the acquisition of Wemanity in France for Reply Group, which has been looking for a partner company for some time to serve as their platform in and around France. “Determining a profitable scaled off-site consulting business in France required imagination, creativity and a real pull on our network in the region,” Doltis said. “Ultimately, we connected with the right entrepreneurs and team in Wemanity, and they were the perfect partners for Reply.”

Specializing in off-market assets, PCB Partners makes highly attractive offers to its clients, with fees based on multiples of what clients end up paying for any business they buy. “The bigger the multiple, the less we make,” Doltis explained. “We believe they shouldn’t be overpaying when they buy a business and we’re prepared to support that by investing in our fees.”

In an atmosphere of economic uncertainty, Doltis remains optimistic about the period ahead. “We don’t think the M&A digital economy will move fast and market valuations will continue to hold steady,” he said. “Nevertheless, it is now more important than ever to ensure that your business is relevant to the market and has a narrow, Deep capabilities and complementary customers.”

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